Friday, May 31, 2013

Gear Pods, First pass

I recently ran across Gear Pods in an article on ITS Tactical. After seeing the pro and looking over their website, I decided they might be worth checking out, especially for specific applications where you want a durable kit that won't take up a ton of room. I'll talk about that more in a later post.

The idea behind Gear Pods is simple - ram as much needed survival equipment into a small, durable tube. What options you decide to go with will vary largely on what you plan to do and where you will keep the tube. They have varying sizes of interlocking tubes, many of them already configured for use. I opted to get their Survival Pro as the base, having read about their small but powerful stove. I added to that their Bivy for a simple shelter option. I then chose to tie it all together using an interlocking ring, which you can buy separate from the core kits. Here's what it all looks like just out of the tube.


Everything fits pretty snug into it's container, though there is a little space in the bivy one I might fit a tiny Altoid can into. I'll fill it with spare meds like Advil and Claritan. Otherwise, not a lot of space is left unused. You can see why here.


Let's break it down a bit more. The bivy fits in the small container. It's the emergency model from American Medical, not a multi use option, but good in a pinch. The sack it comes in might prove useful as well. Not much excitement here, and something I hope never to need. Still, a body-sized waterproof and thermal bag isn't a bad thing to have.

There's a lot more to ogle in the Pro itself. There are 2 major divisions here; the items in the stove, an those in the mug. We'll start with the stove.


Gear Pods is apparently fond of stuff sacks, and I'm OK with that. The stove fits neatly into one and helps keep everything in place when you take it out, so you don't dump all your valuable survival gear (value on such inexpensive things going up considerable when you need them) all over the ground. The obvious item in the bag is the stove itself. Small, compact, but sturdy enough to get the job done. I haven't tested it yet, but it's a heat tablet stove, so no great mysteries to be found. Gear Pods does offer a denatured alcohol adapter, but for an emergency stove that seems above and beyond for me. If I were to use it for backpacking I might feel differently.

The stove itself holds the heat tablets for cooking, some emergency tinder (great stuff, used it before), emergency whistle, compass, thread/fishing line, snare wire, nylon cord, and an LED keychain light. The quality on most of these items seems solid overall. Yes, the keychain LED light is limited in what it puts out and the nylon cord is far less useful than paracord, but all good items to have around. I've seen much cheaper in kits. I'd say it's all on par with those items found in any of the kits American Medical puts out, and I mean that in a good way.

Now, onto the mug...


I'm pretty impressed by the mug itself. The construction is solid and includes a strip of (I assume) kevlar around the top to grab the mug when it's hot. The bottom of the mug is somewhat concave which slightly limits its storage space, but will aid in cooking. The capacity with the lid is just over 9oz, so not enough to make many freeze dried meals. You could move half of my meal into the storage bag or a tube and cook it in stages with little problem

This is also where the bulk of the supplies are stored, and there's some good stuff here. Outside the mug and it's lid, everything is wrapped up in the windscreen enclosed in plastic to protect the mug's non-stick coating. "Everything" includes: a pencil and some sheets of paper; a signal mirror;fresnel lens; plastic bag for water; storm matches with striker; folding knife; folding saw; 6 water-purifying tablets; a vial with a needle, fishing supplies, and safety pins; duct tape; and a flint striker. All this is a little tough to pack into the mug and you need to do it fairly specifically with the pencil in the center, but it does all fit.

While there might be a fey items I would add, there really isn't anything I would take out to make room. Together it makes for a pretty sweet kit, and the tubes themselves are valuable for protecting the goods inside and transporting and/or treating water. I do plan to try out the stove and report back on how it works, but this is going immediately into the side case of my motorcycle, in the hopes I never need it!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Preparedness books

I really need to get more of a bibliography going up here. It’s something my wife does well on her blog, but I haven’t talked about here. My plan is to therefore put up reviews of books then link to them on the side. Let’s jump into review numero uno!

The Prepper's Pocket Guide: 101 Easy Things You Can Do to Ready Your Home for a Disaster

The basics
I came across this book as a recommendation from Amazon on my Kindle account. It was affordable and I decided to pick it up, mostly because I get asked at times by people, "How do I start prepping?" I knew going in that I wasn't necessarily the target audience, but I figured, what the heck, I'll give it a try. I could not have been more pleasantly surprised.

The book's formatting groups action items by topics. The categories are as follows: Getting Started, Financial Readiness, Water Needs, Food Supplies, Ready Your Home, Personal Health and Safety, When the Power is Out, and When You Have to Get Out. Each of these is broken out into areas of specific actions that can be taken, skills to learn, and items to acquire. The book caps off with a conclusion and a list of resources for further follow up. At 224 pages, it doesn't take long to get through. The paperback appears to be standard size, though I have the Kindle version myself. This might change

The introduction lays out the point of the book very succinctly. Everyone who preps started somewhere, so can you. It took me a while to realize that the author, Bernie Carr, was a woman as these books are so often written by men. The writing style and approach were part of the tip off which was confirmed by comments deeper in the book. I mean this entirely as a good thing as the book is written to be very useful and focused on real life, day-to-day needs. The focus is less on security, collecting a lot of guns, and defending what you have; instead it gravitates towards the no-nonsense, easy to do things that will help you out in a variety of situations.

Each of the book's topics has solid, well categorized action items underpinning it. Instead of most books in this genre which load you up on information but little to do with it, Carr gives you very specific, deliberate items that feel attainable. Well, most of the time. There are a few times when she goes into a bit of a laundry list, such as acquiring specific skills, and others when the action item is very broad. The assumption here is that you will pursue more information on those topics yourself. While some might find this annoying, I think it is impossible to expect a book of this nature to go into too much detail. I found the information presented was more than enough to get you going down the right path in any area. Even as someone who's been at this for a while, I found a fair bit of meat here and items I'd never thought about (like draining my water heater for more drinking water!)

Final Thoughts
Carr does a good job of sticking to her original intent of providing real life benefit. There is very little in the way of explanation about what might go wrong and more focus on how to prevent and cope with it. This book will not scare you into preparing, but instead make the prospect of prepping itself less scary. Her tone and approach have a broader appeal than many books in this genre. She does move quickly through personal security (firearms are covered in 2 short paragraphs) but that is an asset, in my opinion. She avoids alienating a portion of her audience by suggesting further research elsewhere. I also like the fact that she comes through as knowledgeable without seeming a know it all.

For me, the final endorsement of a book needs to be whether or not I would recommend it. Not only would I recommend this book, I would suggest it as the very first book a budding prepper should own. For those already on the path, this book can act as an excellent yardstick to see where you are and where you want to be. In short, buy it!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The trouble with gas cans

Like many of you, I expect, I own a lot of gas powered tools. Snow blower, lawn mower, chain saw, weed whacker, and generator for the short list. Then there are the bigger ones - pickup, car, and motorcycle. The last 3 I (generally) fill up right at the pump, but I like to have spare gas with me when possible. The smaller ones all require I have gas in the garage (and one or 2 that I pre-mix it with oil). This has led to an assortment of gas storage containers, mostly of the plastic variety. And all with modern "safety" nozzles.

Yes, I used quotes on safety. I have had more trouble with the various mechanisms that prevent gas from pouring until it should than I ever did with an old-style "Gooseneck" spout. I assume that a number of people either immolated themselves or something else, resulting in the safety mechanisms we now have. I know that, with these new contraptions, I have twice spilled gas on an engine and once on myself. I often end up with it on my hands after manually forcing that should be an "easy to use" system to engage and allow gas to flow.

Personally, I think if you cannot use a simple flexible spout to get gas into a gas tank, you should reconsider operating whatever you are fueling. Some might say you should be able to handle the fueling through the modern safety devices, but the issue on these is that the devices themselves are unreliable and the point of failure, not the operator. When the devices fail to engage, or get stuck, and require manual manipulation at the point of fueling, your device is less safe than the person operating it. The attitude should be one similar to operating a car - the most important safety mechanism is located between the ears of the driver.

All this lead to my pursuit for old style gas cans. I had a few key requirements for this pursuit:
- Easy, no frills spout
- No additional safety features that inhibit pouring
- Durable construction
- Useful for garage or in vehicle transportation

In the end I decided I wanted a metal can for durability. I don't mind plastic per se, but long term exposure to sunlight is not good for it, making it a poor choice in the bed of my truck. Additionally, I have yet to find one that comes with a good spout that meets the first requirement. The classic, squat, round cans are very hard to find. They are also often illegal in many states. The same is true of the NATO "Jerry" can, what many will recognize as the gas cans seen on the backs of jeeps and Range Rovers. I settled on picking up a couple of Jerry cans and spouts, despite not being permissible in my state for fuel usage. This is a risk I'm willing to take, your mileage may vary.

Metal gas cans get a bad wrap for the danger of sparks when the metal of the nozzle and the can opening come together. You know, like the metal when you put the nozzle in you car tank. There is also a worry of rust and degradation, but this comes down to upkeep and care. I'm willing to take on the simple maintenance. The final worry is that they tend to be fine up to temps of @130 degrees but have no vapor release valve, like many plastic cans do. Thus, if you put the can into, say, the hatch of a car, you can push it to the point where the can will fail and gas or vapor will escape. Without ignition, you're still not going to have a fire, but this isn't an ideal situation. I plan to keep it in the back of my pickup where the temperature will not exceed the outside air. In New England, 130 won't be an issue. I'm exploring mounting options, likely I'll just weld something up that I can easily take out when I need the full bed.

The classic "Jerry" can

So, where do you find them? It is possible to find used ones at an Army Navy store, but I really wanted to go new in this case. I finally settled on getting them from as I have a membership there. I rarely use it, it came with supporting The Survival Podcast, but in this case it pushed my price per can down to $44. I've found smaller cans for less, but for the 5 gallon version, this is a decent deal. I also don't pay shipping, which really helped. I had to have them shipped to a friend in a neighboring state. Again, my call, not advocating you do the same.

The cans are green in color, being of military design, so I'll be marking them as containing gas through labeling or painting them red. I bought a spout for each one which mounts nicely to the can itself. Putting the spout on and pouring safely and quickly into my power equipment should never be an issue again!